參見龔卓軍，〈叛徒的游牧：楊茂林的分裂修辭與反諷〉，收於《MADE IN TAIWAN：楊茂林回顧展》，台北：台北市立美術館，2016。陳莘，《偽青春顯相館：吳天章》，台北：田園城市，2013。
 Michel Foucault, La Peinture de Manet, Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 2004.
Taipei Elevated．Modernology: Lu Hsien-Ming’s Urban Observation
Text / GONG Jow-Jiun, Associate Professor, Doctoral Program in Art Creation and Theory, TNNUA; Academic Chair of Exhibition :Modernology: Lu Hsien-Ming’s Urban Observation (Tainan)
We try to stand quietly on the soil of Tokyo at that time and perceive so many things happening now that worth our gaze at the same time. We, at least myself, managed to make a living, working as a house painter, and conducted some small-scale research projects, lingering on this scorched land every day. It was also around this period that I started feeling the joy of recording what I had seen and heard.
—KON Wajiro, What is Modernology; February 1928
To think about Lu Hsien-Ming’s art through “modernology” is due to my understanding of “modernology” as both “the study of observations made through lingering on urban streets” and “an emerging study grown from a scorched land,” the combination of which represents how I feel about Lu’s painting and installation. The term “modernology” is closely associated with urban architecture and space. It originated from the Japanese society that underwent rapid modernization in the 1920s and fast reconstruction after the catastrophic 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Since Kon Wajiro shifted his focus from Yanagita Kunio’s studies of native ethnology and launched “modernology” to the subsequently developed idea and science of roadway observation conceived by Akasegawa Genpei, Minami Shinbo and Fujimori Terunobu, the study of modernology has always been related to the rebellious spirit of art.
To begin with the context of art and cultural history, Kon Wajiro studied graphic design at Tokyo Fine Arts School (now Tokyo University of the Arts) and graduated in 1912. Afterwards, he taught at the Department of Architecture at Waseda University, and later became a professor there. According to Fujimori’s description of Kon in “Elucidation: The Accurate Modernology” anthologized in An Introduction to Modernology edited by Fujimori, “[Kon] was good at finding and picking up objects that others would often overlook and miss.” After he grew up, Kon began to “pick up” thatched roof styles of people’s homes, so much that he later joined the Thatch Group directed by Yanagita and eventually organized the analytical ethnographic atlas, entitled Japanese Houses. Around the time that 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake struck, Kon finally shifted the focus of his study that had previously employed Yanagita’s ethnological methodology to objects and people observed on roadways in modern urban areas of the time. Eventually, he founded “modernology,” a study that came close to cultural sociology.
Three aesthetic or aesthesiologic characteristics can be deduced from Kon’s concept of modernology. Firstly, it is clear that modernology adopts a rebellious stand against mainstream culture. From Kon’s writing, readers can vividly detect his revolt against the Greater East-Asia War (the Pacific War) and all the heroic narratives that celebrate prominent historic figures. Secondly, Kon felt impatient toward the academic knowledge system regarding its widening distance from the folk society and people’s everyday life. Consequently, he was more willing and content in spending time at rural hot spring regions, recording varying forms of delicate tinplate gas lamp shades from local households. In other words, those strange materials excluded by modern art, from the viewpoint of modernology, seemed to have become expressionist decorative symbols similar to that in the German expressionist film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Published in August 1923, shortly before the Great Kanto Earthquake, Kon’s essay, The Work of Tinplate Workers, can almost be viewed as a manifesto of modernology. Thirdly, although the city of Tokyo was almost destroyed and became a vast scorched land after the Great Kano Earthquake, Kon observed that “temporary houses after the disaster, built with iron, wood sticks and piles and other broken boards, revealed a resilient life force of the urban dwellers, along with intriguing forms; in particular, the hanging, freestanding signs at these temporary houses were like fresh sprouts that just shot out from the ash of the scorched land.” Therefore, the post-disaster scenes observed on the urban roads and the commercial signs that sprang up like mushrooms collectively formed the genesis of modernology. This attitude is the reason why Fujimori Terunobu and others have developed the study of roadway observation as an approach to resist the popular trend of turning “modernology” into a symbol of commercial products in modern cities.
Lee Wei-Jing once described Lu’s urban observation of Taipei in the following words: “According to Lu Hsien-Ming, who used to be busy running about the streets of Taipei for livelihood, there were not many Mercedes-Benz cars on the road in 1989 and 1990. However, many could soon be seen in the streets in the early 1990s, and everywhere one passed by, there were on-going construction sites of bridges and houses, filling the city with construction noises all the time. Being on the streets, one realized that the city was changing at an incredible speed. Lu, therefore, wanted to record these changes he had witnessed himself. He took photographs of the construction sites of the peripheral expressway, the viaducts, Bingjian Street, Xinsheng Elevated Road, etc., and reconstructed these structures from different angles in his work. ‘I felt an impact so strong that I just wanted to record these changes with my painting.’” Moreover, several art pioneers from the Hantoo Art Group, such as Yang Mao-Lin and Wu Tien-Chang, also developed their respective artistic vocabularies involving political collision, historical reflection, local symbolism and a rhetoric of disruption after the lifting of martial law in the 1990s.
Contrary to this trend, however, Lu’s painting motif and vocabulary express a sense of calmness and rationality, refraining from directly engaging in the debate on “the subjectivity of Taiwanese art” as well as avoiding using the rhetoric of disruption for political argument, historical reflection as well as the deconstruction and reconstruction of local symbols. Instead, the artist’s motif was converted from an “elevated” urban space of Taipei that had undergone extensive construction in the 1980s—the elevated MRT bridges, the elevated peripheral expressway, the Xizhi-Wugu Viaduct, the scaffoldings of buildings, formulating a new contradictory rhetoric of elevation for contemporary easel painting. This contradictory framed rhetoric not only problematizes painting frame and canvas like that of Manet’s painting, but also transforms painting frame and canvas material into materials for expression. Lu even takes a step further by incorporating steel used for the framework of urban traffic systems into his painting and turns it into the stainless steel frame of his painting. His meticulous observation and refined visualization of the process of Taipei’s urban modernization are, in fact, informed by his passionate, rebellious spirit; at least, for traditional canvas painting, his approach serves as a powerful and determined response.
From a modernological point of view, people who tend to discuss “Taipei after the lifting of martial law” often neglect the “elevated” aspect of this city. However, the experience of the “traffic dark age” has become a vivid part of the memory possessed by two generations of Taipei residents and people who had worked or studied in Taipei during the period. The Taipei streets in Tsai Ming-Liang’s 1992 film, Rebels of the Neon God, as well as the construction site of Daan Forest Park and various places of on-going construction in Taipei encountered by the actors Chen Chao-Jung and Lee Kang-Sheng in Tsai’s 1994 film, Vive L’Amour, in fact, only reveal a tip of the city that was massively under construction in the 1990s. One can take a retrospective look and examine the modernizing Taipei that Lu has witnessed during his “scooter-riding” years in the 1990s. In July 1988, the construction of Taipei MRT Beitou Depot was officially launched, and the construction of six MRT routes, including the Muzha Line, the Tamsui Line, the Xindian Line, the Banqiao Line, the Nangang Line and the Zhonghe Line, were commenced at the same time, which was a major milestone known as “the concurrent launch of six MRT lines.” Back then, multiple traffic artery roads in Taipei, such as Zhongxiao East Road, Fuxing South Road, Gongyuan Road, Roosevelt Road, Heping East and West Roads, Wenhua Road in Banqiao District, all underwent a traffic dark age. It was not until 1996 to 2000 when the initial traffic network was completed and the construction fences measured 68 kilometers were removed did the roads become fully visible and available. If one takes into consideration Taipei MRT’s expansion and the second-stage traffic network construction, they have helped bring the traffic network to a total of 75.8 kilometers when the Neihu Line and the Xinlu Line were competed and integrated into the network in 2012.
Around the same period, the construction of Xizhi-Wugu Viaduct, also publicly known as the 18th Bidding Project, was launched in 1991. The viaduct, 20.3 kilometers in total, was inaugurated in 1997. It runs through the Neihu District, Jiuzong Road and Tiding Boulevard while connecting with the busy traffic artery roads, such as Tayou Road, Binjiang Street, and the Northbound Lane of Huanhe North Interchange. Throughout the entire viaduct, it is all elevated four-lane or six-lane road. In June 1998, the construction of Huanhe Expressway in New Taipei City began. It runs along Tamsui River, the west bank of Xindian River and connects with New Taipei Bridge that crosses the Erchong Floodway as well as Zhongcui Bridge that links Sanchong District and Banqiao District before leading to Taipei’s satellite districts, including Zhonghe, Yonghe and Xindian. The expressway, measured 21.8 kilometers in total, was finally completed in January 2013. One can imagine that the artist, in his relatively youthful years, would first depart from Xinyi District that was still being developed at the time and rode his scooter across Yongfu Bridge or Fuhe Bridge to teach at Fu-Hsin Arts and Trade School for several years. Afterwards, in the early 1990s, he and Wu Tien-Chang rented a studio together in Zhonghe, which became a base for him as he began commuting between Taipei City and Taipei County connected by Zhongzheng Bridge. Although these extensive construction sites could not even begin to match Japan’s massive urban reconstruction after the Great Kanto Earthquake, the Taipei urban area in 1990s, as a mega construction site of infrastructure systems, has been frequently featured in the background of various movies and plays (i.e. the 1993 version of The Night We Became Hsiang-Sheng Comedians), which validates its commonality in representing the everyday life of the lower social stratum in Taipei.
Perhaps, this experience of being surrounded by such a mega construction site – the traffic and body experience of riding a scooter or walking through Taipei City in the 1990s – could be illustrated by “the slipperiness of roads covered with steel plates” experienced by both the artist and myself, an experience that has been directly and indirectly associated with Lu’s use of various forms of stainless steel frames as well as MRT bridge and road bridge frameworks in his work. In the early 1990s, I was still teaching at cram schools on Nanyang Street. One winter afternoon, I was riding my classic SYM Wolf 125 in the drizzling Taipei City. Upon reaching the intersection of Changde Street and Gongyuan Road (today’s MRT NTU Hospital Station) and the entrance of Taipei New Park (now the 228 Peace Memorial Park), the yellow light was just about to turn red. I hit the brake of my motorcycle before passing the traffic light, and unfortunately failed to stop. As a result, my Wolf 125 with me sitting on it slipped on the wet, slippery steel-plate covered road surface above the MRT underground construction site, and consequently skidded onward for about thirty meters on the metal plates until it was stopped by the Jersey barriers. Because it was the red light when I fell and all the traffic had actually stopped at the intersection, the only motion, and commotion for that matter, at the moment was me on my motorcycle, like that of a ballet dancer performing a solo dance, that dashed forward through the traffic and let out a monotonous, horrifying screech until the final bang of the motorcycle’s front crashing into the concrete barriers.
My intuitive impression on Lu’s painting installations is that they are like documents informed by a sense of melancholy similar to the helpless feeling when my body was stuck on the motorcycle slipping across the urban street surface covered with steel plate while making a screeching noise. This body of works addresses the period of three decades after the lifting of martial law, during which construction sites, scaffoldings, bridges and viaducts started appearing in different corners of Taipei City and Taipei County; they belong to urban flâneurs who have lived in and through that era. Lu, as a painter immersed in modern living condition, is like a prince in disguise making rounds in the urban space resembling a mega construction site, and reveals an urbanscape of modernology—the study of modern living experiences. The primary figures in this urbanscape are the crowd, laborers, large machineries and street vendors that have rapidly vanished under the shadow of construction sites as parts of the city are being “elevated”; they also include the movable signs, street trees and buildings being “elevated” as depicted subject matters to be framed in paintings; and they are certainly the artist’s peers who have been lingering in the urban space of Taipei. All these have been captured by Lu’s calm and detail-capturing eyes, and have left a transient yet powerful impression.
The cold atmosphere of the “elevated, framed and fenced” city is reminiscent of the indifferent eyes of the prostitute enslaved girl in Manet’s Olympia (1863), the framing wall in The Execution of Emperor Maximilian (1867), the banisters from the vantage point in The Balcony (1868), the fences in The Railway (1872) and the framed mirror reflection in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1881-82). In three ways – resisting the fictitious perspective in classical landscape painting to create a sense of depth, refusing the disregard of the materiality of painting frame and canvas in classical painting, and creating a superficial depth that seemed obstructed and lack of perspective – one can conclude that the core modern quality of Lu’s painting is to employ frameworks, a major quality in Taipei’s modernology, to foreground the sense of warmth of individual existences in the surface of the environment amidst the pursuit of systematic order in the “elevated” city of Taipei. These individual existences, be it nameless elders, manual laborers, scavengers, trees in parks, time-honored objects or worn-out street vending carts are contrasted to elements used to construct the urban order, to increase mobility and to improve cleanliness, whether they are machines, steel plates, viaducts and expressways, MRT bridges or different electronic text display signs in frames. Through this intense, framed contrast, a strong sense of “backgroundless-ness” and “desertedness” is highlighted, likening Lu’s paintings to revelations of the future world or apocalyptic urban scenes in a sci-fi doomsday. Nevertheless, the artist always seems to be standing on the edge of the city amidst these scenarios or taking the position of a street tree, in which he calmly contemplates and rationally observes, occasionally showing a subtle smile, as he lowers his eyes to examine objects left on the scorched soil of roads or carefully check fresh shoots budding from crevices and old roots—an urban observer who has formal art training, understands trends in the art scene but never limits himself to accepted expressions and forms in the art world.
 Introduction to Modernology (Kogengaku Nyumon) Kon, Warjio. An Introduction to Modernology. Ed. Terunobu Fujimori. Trans. Chan Mu-Ju and Kung Wang-Ju. Taipei: Flaneur Culture Lab, 2018.
 Lee, Wei-Jing. Between Calm and Passion. Lu Hsien-Ming. Taipei: Lin & Lin Gallery, 2014.
 Gong, Jow-Juin. “Nomadology of a Rebel: Yang Mao-Lin’s Splitting Rhetoric and Irony.” MADE IN TAIWAN: A Retrospective of Yang Mao-Lin. Taipei: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 2016. Chen, Hsin. Studio of Pseudo Photography: Wu Tien-Chang. Taipei: Garden City Publishers, 2013.
 Foucault, Michel. La Peinture de Manet. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 2004.